January 24 , 2011
Contact: Joanne Doroshow
STATEMENT BY JOANNE DOROSHOW, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR IN RESPONSE TO HOUSE MEDICAL MALPRACTICE BILL
Less than one week after Joanne Doroshow, Executive Director of the Center for Justice & Democracy, testified before the House Judiciary Committee urging the Committee to stop trying to solve insurance industry problems on the backs of injured patients, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and two other members have introduced legislation that will increase the epidemic of medical errors in the country. Moreover, they are asking President Obama to join them in a mission to side with death and profits over the American people.
Medical negligence kills at least a hundred thousand people every year and injures ten times more, costing the economy tens of billions of dollars annually. This legislation would weaken the legal rights of sick and injured patients and lessen the accountability of incompetent doctors and unsafe hospitals. Meanwhile, the insurance industry gets to pocket money that should be available to the sick and injured, forcing many to turn elsewhere for help, including Medicaid, further burdening taxpayers.
In other words, these measures would most likely increase the deficit, while unfairly increasing the obstacles that sick and injured patients face in the already difficult process of seeking compensation and prevailing in court.
The bill has severe and cruel restrictions on the legal rights of patients injured by reckless, unsafe medical care like severe 'caps' on compensation, provisions that guarantee many injured patients will be shut out of court altogether, and other types of punishment for patients. Not even the Congressional Budget Office believes these laws will save more than 0.5 percent in health care costs, which is likely a significant exaggeration, and could at the same time increase the U.S. death rate by .2 percent, killing over 4,000 people each year.
Moreover, these liability limits apply to the pharmaceutical companies in addition to ensuring that incompetent doctors, unsafe hospitals, HMOs and abusive nursing homes are off the hook for killing and maiming many patients. This bill will result in more Americans dying. Members of Congress certainly should not be asking the President to join them in this mission.